Mystic Pop-up Bar: Episode 5
Get your hankies ready, because this episode is a real heartbreaker. Loss of a loved one is something everyone faces differently, and it’s no easier for the one who’s gone ahead than for the love they’ve left behind. Unfortunately, our dreamwalking heroine is no stranger to loss, and her most recent case hits very close to home. But love doesn’t end just because someone dies,
EPISODE 5 RECAP
After passing out from the stress of visiting the Afterlife, Kang-bae wakes up in his own bed to find Wol-joo making porridge for him. He’s incredibly touched, saying that it’s the first time anyone’s cooked for him at home. Wol-joo snaps that she just needs him to get better and come back to work, but she’s pretty pleased by his compliments.
She asks Kang-bae his favorite food, and he tells her it’s mandoo (dumplings) because they have meat and vegetables, and they only need to be steamed. Wol-joo scoffs that a lot of work goes into making mandoo, and Kang-bae admits that he’s only had the frozen ones from the store.
Speaking of the store, Kang-bae is volun-told to participate in the store-wide couples’ dance competition. He’s informed that since he always weasels out of these things, it’s his turn, and to make matters worse, his participation will be considered in his performance review.
Kang-bae is naturally worried about affecting his partner with his ability. But he notices that Yeo-rin is also participating (in an attempt to fit in at her new job), but when he tries to catch her eye, she purposely pretends not to see him.
Meanwhile, Manager Gwi accompanies Wol-joo as she power-walks in the park, determined to get in better shape herself after seeing Kang-bae collapse. Manager Gwi is a little jealous that Wol-joo cooked for Kang-bae and complains that she never cooks for him, but she just makes him exercise with her.
They poop out easily and decide to rent a two-person bike instead, but Wol-joo just makes Manager Gwi do all the work. They stop for snacks (hee, Wol-joo makes Manager Gwi trade, and he complains but he’s so obviously whipped for her) and Chief Yeom joins them, teasing that they look like they’re on a date.
Chief Yeom asks Manager Gwi and Wol-joo for help tracking down a wandering spirit that’s been eluding him. At first Wol-joo refuses, until Chief Yeom explains that it’s an opportunity to help the spirit say goodbye to her family and earn another point towards her quota.
We switch to a husband and wife, visiting the husband’s mother’s ashes. The wife, JIN-SEOK (cameo by Lee Ji-hyun) recalls that when her mother-in-law died, she was calling out SANG-GEON’s name (cameo by Oh Man-seok). Sang-geon says sadly that he was too busy working to be at his mother’s deathbed, and yep, that sounds like the perfect recipe for a wandering spirit.
They leave, and Jin-seok says she’s leaving for her trip to see her sister. Sang-geon gives her the car keys and declines a ride to work, taking the bus instead. Manager Gwi follows him to work, and then to the store later, and asks the cashier about Sang-geon after he checks out.
Awww, Wol-joo is at Mystic Pop-up Bar making mandoo by hand, though she swears she’s making them for herself and not because they’re Kang-bae’s favorite food and he’s only ever had them from frozen. Kang-bae tells her about the couple dance competition, worried that his coworkers will learn about his ability since Yeo-rin hates his guts and probably won’t agree to be his partner.
While Wol-joo is telling Kang-bae about their new assignment to help the wandering spirit say goodbye to her family, Sang-geon walks past the pojangmacha and stops in for some mandoo. He says that his wife makes the best shrimp mandoo, and that they were even his mother’s last meal.
Wol-joo asks if anything strange has been happening to him lately. Sang-geon doesn’t know what she means so she sends Kang-bae in, but his touch does nothing. When Sang-geon leaves, Manager Gwi tells the others that according to the cashier, Sang-geon always used to go home late, but ever since the funeral he’s been going home early.
That makes Kang-bae suspect that the wandering spirit may be at Sang-geon’s home, so Manager Gwi pretends to be maintenance in order to get inside Sang-geon’s apartment. He doesn’t find anything, but after he’s gone, we see a shifting black haze hovering near Sang-geon as he watches television. ~shudder~
Back at Mystic Pop-up Bar, the trio are worried that there are now two people who aren’t affected by Kang-bae’s ability. Kang-bae laments that he’d be more help if he could see spirits, but Manager Gwi says that seeing spirits and getting people to tell their secrets would make him as strong as a shaman.
Wol-joo spits that being a shaman sucks because people come at you with knives. Kang-bae asks how she knows and she just says she knows a lot after being on Earth for five hundred years, but Manager Gwi seems saddened.
They decide to keep a better eye on Sang-geon the following day, so Manager Gwi and Wol-joo follow him on his bus to work. The driver takes a sharp turn and Manager Gwi smoothly catches Wol-joo from falling, which gives her a little thrill until she notices that he’s completely focused on Sang-geon.
Sang-geon doesn’t get off at his stop, and a guy with red glowing eyes glares at Manager Gwi as he gets on the bus. Manager Gwi whispers to Wol-joo that there’s a spirit nearby, but before they can formulate a plan, the spirit stops the bus and jumps off.
They chase it down the street, over a fence, and into a parking garage before it turns to fight Manager Gwi. Eventually Manager Gwi grabs it by the throat and orders the spirit out, but the spirit gets darker and stronger and breaks out of his hold. It runs straight at Wol-joo, but Manager Gwi summons his fiery halberd and throws it at the spirit, skewering it just before it reaches her.
It dissipates and condenses into another large spirit bead. Manager Gwi picks it up and Wol-joo notices that his hand is bleeding, then she yells at him for complaining about kitchen work when fighting evil spirits is so much more dangerous. Manager Gwi grumbles that he thought she was actually worried about him for half a second.
While Manager Gwi takes the spirit bead back to the Afterlife, Wol-joo pretends to be a delivery person at Sang-geon’s office. She sees the spirit following him, and she catches up to it in a stairwell. She tells the spirit that she knows what it’s like to leave a loved one behind when you die.
She says the spirit can’t even talk to Sang-geon right now, but that she can help her. The spirit almost goes with her but gets scared off when someone barges into the stairwell.
Meanwhile, Kang-bae works up the nerve to ask Yeo-rin to be his dance partner. She still thinks he’s in the CIA and says it makes her uncomfortable, so he tries a different approach. He says that Yeo-rin is special to him, which sounds pretty romantic and Yeo-rin starts to soften…
… but then he continues that he has to partner with her because she’s the only one who feels nothing when she touches him. HAHAHA, ouch. Annoyed, Yeo-rin throws some fakeout kicks and punches and asks how they would feel.
Kang-bae tells Jin-dong and Manager Ma that he got rejected, but they won’t let him bow out of the competition. They advise him to be more confident, which Jin-dong demonstrates by pinning Manager Ma against the wall and pretending to kiss him, hee. Kang-bae imagines trying this on Yeo-rin and getting flipped onto his butt. Accurate.
He tries a more respectful tactic of following Yeo-rin to a restaurant after work. A blind man comes in with his seeing-eye dog, and a customer at a nearby table starts loudly complaining that his dog is filthy and shouldn’t be allowed in restaurants. The blind man stands to leave, but Kang-bae hurries over and tells him to stay and eat.
He turns to the rude customer and politely informs her that guide dogs are allowed in restaurants by law. The woman yells that people come first, and now Yeo-rin has heard enough. She says that people are considered the lords of creation because they can understand and help each other, and that even the dog is helping someone, so the woman should behave like a human being if she wants to be treated like one. YES!
Kang-bae and Yeo-rin walk together after eating, a tentative truce forming between them. Yeo-rin asks how Kang-bae knew about guide dog laws, and he says shyly that he has an easier time around animals than people so he’s done some volunteering. It makes Yeo-rin smile, but later Yeo-rin remembers him saying he wants to partner with her because she feels nothing around him and gets annoyed all over again.
Wol-joo bandages up Manager Gwi’s hand, looking a little nervous, but she’s quick to say that she’s only doing it so he doesn’t scare the customers. He starts to get back to work cutting onions, but Wol-joo suddenly decides she wants to go out to eat. Awww, she’s such a softie.
When Sang-geon gets home from work, he realizes he’s forgotten his passcode. His wife, Jin-seok, lets him in from inside, and she says something strange… that she came home early, otherwise Sang-geon would have stayed out all night. Sang-geon tells her that he’s been forgetful lately, and after he heads off to the bedroom, the black spirit materializes in the living room.
Over dinner, Wol-joo tells Manager Gwi how she almost convinced the spirit to come with her (“I was just like Oprah Winfrey!” lol). She admits that she feels bad for the spirit because the trip to the Afterlife is scary enough without leaving behind a loved one. Manager Gwi sympathizes more with Sang-geon, who was left behind, saying that he must wonder what he was doing in her final moments, and feeling powerless.
Kang-bae joins them and asks for a shot of soju, since Yeo-rin turned him down as a dance partner. But when Wol-joo says that Yeo-rin seems cold, Kang-bae jumps to her defense, saying that she just has clear boundaries. Manager Gwi asks what Kang-bae said when he asked her to be partners, so Kang-bae tells him that he said it’s good that she feels nothing when she touches him.
Manager Gwi sighs, then tells Kang-bae that you don’t tell a person that you need them — you say you want to be the person they need. Wol-joo remembers another time when someone said those words to her, back when she was still alive.
She’d met with the crown prince, who had told her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Wol-joo had said he was obligated to spend the rest of his life with a respectable lady from a good family, and that it was time to let her go since he had recovered. The crown prince had said he was keeping her by his side, not because he needed something from her, “But because I want to be someone you need.”
Wol-joo had told him not to feel beholden to her for performing her work, and he had asked if this was just work for her. He’d said that from the moment he first heard her voice in his dreams, his heart had belonged to her, and he’d asked her to accept his love.
In the morning, Sang-geon gets in huge trouble at work for forgetting about an important meeting. His boss is kind, but he tells Sang-geon that he’s going to be laid off in an upcoming company restructure. Sang-geon argues to keep his job, but his boss says he’s been acting strange and turning in reports that are solid gibberish.
Sang-geon asks his boss to rethink the decision, since he’s just finally earned enough money to send Jin-seok on a trip. His boss says that he thought Sang-geon was just experiencing shock from losing his wife, but that he seriously needs help.
Incredulous, Sang-geon says that his wife didn’t die. But he stumbles out of the building, recalling snippets of forgotten memories — sending Jin-seok to her sister’s alone in their car, and seeing her body at the hospital later. He’s been told by a doctor that he’s suffering from vascular dementia (a series of small, silent strokes that affect the memory), causing him to forget that Jin-seok is gone.
He recovers enough to get himself home, where he finds Jin-seok in the kitchen and a plate of mandoo on the table. She smiles at him sadly as he says they’re his favorite. He takes a bite, then begins to cry as he finally accepts that Jin-seok is gone. In the corner, the black spirit materializes, and we see that it’s not Sang-geon’s mother… it’s been Jin-seok all along.
Manager Gwi talks her into going to Mystic Pop-up Bar with him. She tearfully tells him and Wol-joo that she and Sang-geon promised on their honeymoon to stay together until the end of time, but now she just wants to say goodbye. They grab Kang-bae and take him into Sang-geon’s dreams via Wol-joo’s movie theater, and they see how confused and mixed-up Sang-geon’s memories have become (which is why he didn’t respond to Kang-bae’s touch).
They find a memory that’s clear enough to use, and soon Jin-seok is walking with Sang-geon in a beautiful sunny dream field. Jin-seok tells Sang-geon that she’s happy they got to live together, and when he sighs that he put her through a lot, she teases, “At least you know!”
She says sweetly that this is their last day together. Sang-geon sobs that she died because he sent her on that trip, but Jin-seok assures him that it’s not his fault. She asks him to start getting treatment, and she apologizes for not keeping her promise to grow old with him.
Sang-geon says he wishes he’d asked Jin-seok for a ride to work that day, or at least looked into her eyes one last time. He tells Jin-seok that he’s afraid he’ll forget how lucky he was to have her for his wife, but she promises to remember everything and remind him when they’re reunited. Sang-geon tells Jin-seok that he loves her, and they hold each other one last time.
The next day at Kapeul Mart, Yeo-rin watches a man slipping bottles of alcohol into a black tote bag, but when she pulls him aside, he shows her that his bag is empty. He’s furious at being accused of stealing, and he demands that Manager Ma either fire Yeo-rin, or make her get on her knees to apologize.
Yeo-rin is about to comply, but Kang-bae takes the bag from the man, deliberately touching his hands. The man says that of course the stolen good aren’t in the bag — he works with a partner, who carries an identical bag, which they switch so that the person who stole the items looks innocent if they’re stopped. Luckily, his accomplice is waiting nearby and Yeo-rin busts him with the stolen alcohol.
Later, Yeo-rin asks why Kang-bae helped her, since he could have been fired if they’d been wrong. Kang-bae says it’s because she needed him and trusted him, like she trusted him when they first met. He says that he’d promised himself that he’d do the same for her if ever he got the chance. She asks if he’d like to be her dance partner, and awwww, his happy little face.
Sang-geon packs a bag, including a portrait of a smiling Jin-seok and a brochure for a nursing home. He stops at Mystic Pop-up Bar for another plate of mandoo, and Wol-joo notes that he looks happy. Sang-geon says he’s going to stay with a friend in Yangpyong, and that his son is coming home to Korea soon, too.
With only a healthy amount of sadness, Sang-geon tells Wol-joo that his wife has passed away. He says she was always cheerful, so he’s sure she’ll be okay until they meet again. He gets a little teary-eyed as he eats his shrimp mandoo, saying softly that they taste familiar somehow, but he can’t remember why.
Manager Gwi offers Sang-geon a ride to Yangpyong, saying that he’s heading that way anyway. After they leave, Jin-seok pops up from behind the counter, flour smeared on her face… awww, she made the shrimp mandoo. She thanks Wol-joo, saying it was nice to see Sang-geon eating well even if it’s hard to leave behind the person she loves.
She asks Wol-joo about the person she left behind, and says that Wol-joo has lonely eyes. She fervently wishes for Wol-joo to one day see the man she loves again, then she follows Chief Yeom to the Afterlife.
Wol-joo remembers the past again… the crown prince had dressed in regular clothes and waited for her near a bridge, grinning happily at the jade ring he planned to give her. It had been the night her mother urged her to leave the city, so Wol-joo had only hoped for forgiveness for leaving him without saying goodbye.
She’d said, “If fate really exists, we will surely meet again,” then turned her back on the waiting prince and walked away. Behind her, a man with an evil gleam in his eye had watched her go.
Who was that guy?? Was he the man who killed Wol-joo’s mother? He certainly looked like some sort of assassin. I already have so many questions, and each reveal of Wol-joo’s past just brings up even more.
To be honest, I guessed pretty early in the episode that the wandering spirit was Sang-geon’s wife and not his mother, but that didn’t lessen the blow when Sang-geon eventually remembered that she had died. It was heartbreaking to see a man so devastated by loss that he actually began to lose his sanity, and I cried ugly tears at least three times while watching this episode. But I love that Jin-seok’s spirit was able to talk to Sang-geon in a way he could understand, and say goodbye in a way that was meaningful to both of them. It doesn’t lessen Sang-geon’s sorrow over losing the love of his life, but at least now he can move forward and know that she’s waiting for him when it’s his time.
It brings us nicely back around to Wol-joo and the crown prince’s love story, which has now been confirmed. The prince loved Wol-joo and wanted to be with her, but she wasn’t wrong about their love being impossible — a monarch in their time wouldn’t have been allowed to marry a “lowly” shaman, or likely even take her as a concubine. Wol-joo did a painful but kind thing by leaving the prince without saying goodbye, and it would have worked if her mother hadn’t been murdered, causing Wol-joo to take her own life. But everything backfired horribly because of the rumors of Wol-joo and the crown prince’s love, so it’s no wonder Wol-joo is still so bitter.
After this episode, I definitely believe that Manager Gwi is the reincarnation — or actually the spirit, since he’s not human — of the crown prince. The prince swore to protect Wol-joo no matter what it takes, and now Manager Gwi is there every day, watching over Wol-joo as she puts herself in danger to help people and make her quota. He often looks at her wistfully, as if he knows what she’s been through but can’t, for some reason, tell her who he is. And yet again, the story of the people Wol-joo helps did such a beautiful job of highlighting Wol-joo’s own story, this time having to do with whether it’s worse to be the one who leaves or the one who’s left behind. When they each spoke vaguely about how painful their own experience was, it just broke my heart all over again.
And that brings me back around to the reason Wol-joo agreed to this penance in the first place. What was written on the scroll from Queen Yeomra that made her change her mind so quickly? At first I thought it was something about the crown prince, but since he seems to be right there next to her, safe and sound, I think it must have had something to do with her mother (and if you could read the scroll, don’t tell me and spoil the suspense!). I also wonder what happens when Wol-joo finally helps a hundred thousand people and her time on Earth is finished. Queen Yeom said it was her punishment, so does that mean that when Wol-joo is finished, she gets to enjoy a happy Afterlife instead of the torture she was enduring before?
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